Sarawak as regional Centre of Excellence for food and Hospitality Training
Sarawak Tribune - Sunday, 6 July 2003

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By Abdul Hakim Bujang from Balikpapan, Indonesia

BALIKPAPAN - The Sarawak chapter of BIMP-EAGA East Asia Business Council (EABC) is optimistic that the region eco­nomic activities would be reju­venated with the improved mobility in the region.

"Mobility is the main thing, if we want to promote anything ,we need to move and meet peo­ple, before making friends and 'Building trust, either to do busi­ness or consider investing," its' Chairman, Datuk Abang Abdul Karim Tun Openg said in an exclusive interview yesterday.

  He was commenting on the immediate effect of Malaysia Airlines direct flights between Kuching-Balikpapan and Balikpapan-Kota Kinabalu.

MAS service to Balikpapan from Kuching started on Thursday, while that to Kota Kinabalu sector took effect yesterday.

According to Karim, BIMP­EAGA administrative system have been restructured to make it more effective operating as a Business Chamber rather than a collective organisation to get the priorities right.

"In the past, BIMP-EAGA gave been focussing too much on mega and multi lateral projects; now we are trying to promote bilateral ties," he said.

He said two areas have been identified to be worked out - Tourism and Agriculture and Food Industry at the Small and Medium Industry.

"The reason is very simple. SMEs have always being very important in any nation's econo­my and there is so much scope,within BIMP-EAGA," he stressed.

Karim admitted that EABC performance have come under scrutiny for failing to live up to expectation.

"In the past, people have been very cynical about EAGA, referring to it as Eat And Go Away as nothing ever materialised but now we are having the right peo­ple in the right place.

"Our unit in Malaysia, Brunei, Philippine and Indonesia are now working in a solid team, and driven by private sector and not government based anymore. Gone are the days where EAGA members want to do so much over a very short time," he added.

He said EABC now are having the right character who would do the most practical thing.

"This time we are confident of doing it and making things happen," he said.

When asked on Sarawak Chapter's immediate plan, he said they are trying to make Sarawak a Centre for Excellence for Food and Hospitality Industry training.

"We have signed MoU with New Zealand's Christchurch Polytechnic Institute in March to offer the training here and at the very same time trying to develop pacific cuisine to match the continental foods," he said.

The Institute, he said, is the main trainer for International Organisation of Travel Agents (IOTA) and is widely recognised by international tourism players.

He said Malaysia has the advantage in luring Chinese students who would be spared the culture shock besides being nearer and cheaper than going to New Zealand. "We can trained them either in English or Mandarin, depending on their requirement," he concluded.